Thorpe Hall was derelict in 1952 when it was Listed as a Grade II building. It was still abandoned when I took this photograph in 1969. I believe it was rescued by the owner of Brahams ladies’ fashion shop in Davey Place Norwich, who was also much involved with the Great Hall Players. His name however escapes me and also my wife, who was also very involved in the production side of the players. Those of a certain age may remember the shop because if you leaned into the space before the window the mirrors in each side reflected your face ad infinitum.
In the 17th century Thorpe Hall was the town house of the Paston family. The site had earlier been where the Bishops of Norwich had their palace. Until the Reformation the settlement at Thorpe was known as Thorpe Espiscopi and the Bishopric owned the manor.
In the 1940s it was already colour washed and it remained so into the 1970s, although I suspect that this was a relatively late thing and that originally the brickwork had been unpainted. The flintwork certainly was because as a material flint does not accept paint well. It is an ‘L’ shaped building of two high stories and an attic; this is the original building of the Paston era (circa 1600). Later addition rooms were built on of a less imposing nature. Many of the door openings are four centred arches in the Tudor/Jacobean style. It has numerous attractive architectural features in its fenestration, stairways and fireplaces, although as a private residence these are not available for the public to view.
Thorpe Hall is in the historic part of Thorpe along the Yarmouth Road. Further along this road is Thorpe St Andrew’s church opposite River Green. The church is a nineteenth century building, the ruins of the earlier medieval church can be seen nearer the road. It was at St Andrew’s church in Thorpe that my parents were married in 1935. My father was living at Thorpe before his marriage, which explains the location. His parents had moved from a terraced house in Lakenham to a bungalow in Hillcrest Road Thorpe. My mother had also been living in Norwich doing a midwifery course, although she had grown up in Buckinghamshire.
The section of river at River Green is now cut off from the main river by the railway line, but before it was built in 1844 this was the only channel of a busy waterway that was the main artery of trade. Thorpe Green was one of the scenes painted by several artists of the Norwich School. As a picturesque part of the river Yare not far outside the City it was the site of the annual “water frolic”.
The pub the Rivergarden was called the Kings Head until the year 2000. There is a pencil sketch of the Kings Head riverside garden dated July 1806 by John Crome. They were serving drinks by the waterside over 200 hundred years ago as they had probably done at least a hundred years before that. The pub is said to date from 1650. What better way could there be to spend a summer’s afternoon than supping a pint by river? But I am glad John Crome didn’t just drop in for a drink, but did a sketch as well.
Along the same stretch of river the public house now called the Rushcutters also has a riverside garden and is even older, dating from 1600. This was only about 50 years after the Yarmouth road was rerouted past the river; before then it had gone along the higher ground and was routed through Plumstead. In 1800 the Rushcutters was known as the Three Tuns and was the centre of Thorpe Regatta or water frolic. In 1879 it was became the Thorpe Gardens, and in 1969 The Boat and Bottle. It has had its present name since 1985.
My sister Christine emails from Canada: I love Thorpe! I don’t think the Masons ever lived in Hillcrest Road– that was the Andersons. Nannie and Grandad lived at Weston Wood Road. Do you remember it? You would have been very small whenNannie left. It was a lovely site, though the house was a bit inconvenient. Right beside was a little wood, belonging I think to Pointers, (check with Andrew) and the Masons had the use of it. When Mummy and Tig moved to Peterborough in May 1940, Daddy and I moved in with Nannie and Grandad in Thorpe. Rosebud Cottage was set up in the wood. At the end of the little wood was a gravel pit, and right on the edge was a glorious beech tree. David and Andrew had great fun climbing it. Sometimes on Thursday afternoon Daddy would take me to Thorpe Green, my favorite place, where there was a tree with a seat going right round the trunk. I thought that was magical. Years later, when I was in my ‘teens, I often went to Nannie’s for Sunday tea, and my preferred way of getting there was to take the 79 bus to Thorpe Green and then go up the rough road (“unadopted” was the term used) to the gravel pit and across that to the wood and so to Nannie’s. At the top of the gravel road was a white house where lived a school friend of Tiggie’s, by name I think Jane Tapscott. I think Tig visited there.
When Mummy and Daddy were married in St Andrew’s church it had a spire. If as you say the church wasn’t built until C19t the builders must have done a very shoddy job of the spire as it lasted only about 100 years. By the way, it’s true that Mummy did her midwifery training in Norwich, but at the time of her marriage I believe she was a sister tutor. As I think you know, the midwives lived in Earlham Hall.
(The impressive Victorian spire of Thorpe church was made unsafe by the blitz, and was taken down in 1944.)
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